Animation Tutorial – Generic Walk

By chaz on October 15, 2012, 3:50 pm in animation

I will try to keep this short and sweet (impossible because there is a 47 minute tutorial video later); as walks can be tricky so I don’t want to over complicate things. You can draw the body as a whole, but I have a tutorial below where I animate each major part of the body individually; so you only have to worry and think about one body part at a time.

Start out with your key pose on frame #1; we’ll be looking at a 1 sec walk that loops so frame #1 and frame #25 (animating at 24 frames per second) are the same drawing. In a walk, there is a contact pose; the contact pose is where the forward foot heel is just touching the ground in preparation to support the weight of the body. Just to note, if the left foot is forward, then the left arm is back and vice versa with the right side of the body. There is an opposite flowing motion for the upper (arms, torso) and lower (hips, legs) sections of the body.

Here I’m just showing the duplication of frame #1 to frame #25.

On a walk cycle the animation is no less than 2 steps, typically dividing the total time (24 frames) in half so that each step is 12 frames. So on frame #13 you’ll draw the other leg and arm key pose, contact pose. It is essentially the opposite of drawing #1; so if the left foot was back in drawing #1, the left foot is now forward in drawing #13.

Drawing an arc helps us figure out the highest and lowest points (ups and downs) of the hips or center of mass/gravity in the walk cycle. So we know that this is the path that the hips will follow in the animation.

For frame #4, the “down” or lowest drawing is where the front leg is catching the body to support its weight. As the body moves forward the hips will move past the front foot (the foot that’s on the floor stays in the “same position”).

As the body continues to move forward the foot on the floor (the leg) propels the body forward to the “up” or highest position and the heel starts to come up the floor. The front foot is starting to become the back foot. This is frame #10.

The passing position, on frame #7, is the breakdown drawing for frames #4 and #10. It’s called the passing position because, generically speaking, the arms and legs are “passing” one another; the front leg is just starting to become the back leg and the front arm is starting to become the back arm. As the back and front leg and arm are going forward.

Now it’s time to draw the “down” pose for the next leg in the cycle on frame #16. This is opposite of frame #4.

Frame #22 is the “up” drawing; opposite of frame #10.

Opposite of frame #7, frame #19 is the next passing position.

Now that the explanation is out of the way, here’s me demonstrating the animation of a walk cycle (in place, meaning the character is on sort of a treadmill, and doesn’t actual translate forward). You’ll notice that I start to mumble in some places; my apologies. The video is approximately 47 minutes.

This is the animation from the above tutorial video. I also animated the left and middle characters on 1s instead of leaving it on 3s. I left the demo animation on the far right on 3s.

click here for the larger version

I hope this all helps you animate a walk. None of these are hard and fast rules, just guidelines for helping you plan the walk you want (which all can be throw out the window to suit your specific situation). Character personality, emotional state, current events in the story arc of the movie, and weight and age should all be highly taken into consideration to help employ a believable walk for that emotional shot in a film or a hero game character strutting his or her stuff.

These are just the basics to get you to that starting point or to learn how to do it for the first time. The best way to learn, is to do. So get animating!